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Consistency? What's that? - 41%

Zelkiiro, September 26th, 2011

The ever-gimmicky Van Canto is at it again, ladies and gentlemen, and nothing has changed in the year since Tribe of Force, so if you're already familiar with Van Canto, you will know exactly what you're getting yourself into here; nifty a cappella-style metal with voice-modulated guitar solos and a drummer due to a lack of beat-boxers able to keep up the tempo for 4-6 minutes who often dabble in power metal anthems and cover songs. And if you're not familiar with Van Canto, I've already covered the basics, so no excuses when you are lost and confused.

First, let's look at the good original songs. "If I Die in Battle" starts slowly and calmly before blasting into full throttle with a crowd-pleasing chorus--a good, strong start. In the same vein, "The Seller of Souls" moves on a very brisk pace as well, but with a darker tone and some great vocal harmonizing from their female vocalist. "Neuer Wind" is a more predictable mid-paced track (and oddly enough, it's the only song not in English), but some great melodic lines and earnest performances from the group keep this one afloat. "Spelled in Waters" is a nice and calming ballad, but I can't help but feel a little dubious about the group's decision to use an actual acoustic guitar for this track; why bring instruments to an a cappella album, guys?

And now, we've got our hands full with the leftovers--the bad original tracks. It's not really worth talking about them individually, because they mostly share the same flaws: uninspired melodies, poor (or nonexistent) riffing, poor pacing, and overall, these tracks just aren't interesting. "Dangers in My Head" embodies poor riffing most, with the riffs consisting of little more than dubba doom dubba doom dubba doom and maw maw maw maw maw. "Black Wings of Hate" is the most guilty of having uninspired melodies, with "The Higher Flight" following close behind; neither track has a single moment of quality or anything resembling catchiness. The latter is also guilty of trying too hard to be a fast shredder, coming off instead as a hokey Power Quest knock-off.

If you've purchased (or obtained) the limited edition, you've got two more stinkers to add to the list. "Betrayed" starts off promising enough with some tribal-sounding drumming and hypnotic chanting behind the female vocalist, but when it speeds up and gets into the meat, all you get is a nondescript mid-paced dud. "A Storm to Come" is not only way too long, but the first 7 minutes are entirely disposable with its faux-epic stylings, but the last few minutes finally give us some fast-paced anthemic payoff--at least it ends on a good note.

Finally, the cover songs. For many people, these are the only things to look forward to, though they often overlook some of the good original tracks. But that's not the issue here; the issue is whether these covers are any good or not. First up is Alice Cooper's "Bed of Nails," and it's got plenty of energy as well as that hard-rock attitude, but sadly, a lot of the sinister atmosphere of the original is gone--it's a decent cover, but many Alice Cooper fans will be highly disappointed. Next is Sabaton's "Primo Victoria," which is, sadly, not as forceful or intense as it should have been. It just feels weak, without any of the original's oomph. Even Joakim Broden, the original vocalist who decides to tag long for this little adventure, sounds uninterested.

The cover of Manowar's "Master of the Wind" is just as dull as the original. You heard me. To make matters worse, Van Canto cheats on its gimmick yet again by including piano licks. Screw this. And finally, hailing from the limited edition, we have their cover of Running Wild's "Bad to the Bone," which is actually very well-done and true to the original. Fast-paced, intense, and fun as hell--just as intended.

As per the title of my previous Van Canto review, when this album's good, it's really good, and when it's bad, it's really bad. Maybe one day they'll release an album that's not a roller-coaster ride of awesome-shit-awesome-shit, but that day certainly isn't today.